“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.” Aeschylus
As trainers, we are very concerned about learning transfer: that new skills learned in class transfer back to performance in the worksite. We know that transfer works most effectively when the new learning is immediately applied.
The issue is the reality of that “new learning.” According to Patti Shank in her article: “What Do You Know: Why Do People Forget What They Learn?” forgetting depends on how the information was learned- or if it was learned at all.
“Perhaps one of the main reasons for forgetting is that we never remembered in the first place. To forget something, it must first be remembered (encoded in long-term memory). That means it must be perceived, paid attention to, processed in working memory, and finally encoded in long-term memory.”
There are other reasons why we forget: decay, where memories fade over time if they haven’t been accessed enough, and interference, where memories become less accessible as similar information is acquired. Whether decay or interference applies will depend on how the initial memory was created.
Declarative, or explicit memory, relates to what we can state that we remember. It can take one of two forms: familiarity (memory and judgment without a lot of detail) or recollection (memory with specific details in their context). These different forms are stored differently in the brain.
Recollection memory is more resistant to interference, but less resistant to decay.
If we don’t want the new learning to be easily forgotten because of interference, it needs to be learned deeply with the ability to be directly applied on the job.
If we don’t want the new learning to be quickly forgotten because of decay, it needs to be regularly used and recalled. This is more likely to happen if the design for application on the job is based on real knowledge of people’s jobs.
Let’s create recollection memories resistant to both interference and decay by aiming for deep realistic and practical learning with ample practice and immediate ongoing applicability back on the job.
May your learning be sweet.